By Linda Kelly, MSW, RSW
Warning: Strong Language
When I tell people that our entire staff is only women, the response I usually get is sympathy. How can you stand it? It must be hard. All the gossip, they say.
I say, it’s simple.
Because her light does not diminish my own.
Women being in competition with one another, the covert gossip and underhanded betrayals, and the stereotypical need to constantly one-up each other, the preset assumptions that they will exclude you before they even know you, are trends that very much need to be OVER.
Those behaviours relate to a time when women had no rights, a limited ability to make a life for themselves, and barely-there careers full of heartache and stress because the glass ceiling started on the first floor.
You can think, "they're so athletic, they wouldn't want me there," or "that's dedication! Good for them!" The thoughts you choose become your reality.
It doesn’t have to be that way anymore. Our everyday choices and behaviours create the society we live in, so we are all responsible for nurturing healthy, respectful, and open environments where individual successes are celebrated by all of us. But to get there, to light the way for each other, we need to recognize what stops us.
We’ve all seen it happen. Some incredibly put-together woman posts inspiring stuff and gets a positive response. You love them too, at first. You might even go out of your way to tell them how much you are aligned with them and they should keep doing what they’re doing.
And then they keep posting.
And they get more and more likes and attention.
And there’s that part of you that turns a little green.
She’s not THAT great, you say.
You stop liking her stuff.
You feel a little resentful when she gets a lot of attention.
You feel worse about yourself. Why can’t you be as successful/thin/fit/beautiful/smart? You must suck as a human being.
Oh good, she got fat. Eff her.
You feel worse, accomplish less, and maybe you express that dissatisfaction about her to others to see if they agree. Their agreement means that you still have your village and you’re not alone. That becomes gossip, and gossip pervades your culture, becoming the primary way you feel connected with people – you have to put others down so that you don’t feel so bad.
You call it venting, like it’s just a temporary blowing of smoke that will pass. But it’s not really. It fans the flames of your dissatisfaction and creates an echo chamber of people that agree with you.
And worse, it puts you on the defensive. Because if you with all the best of intentions can do it to others, you can guarantee that people are doing it to you.
This. Needs. To. Stop.
We decide what society we want to live in by the choices WE make every day.
We can choose to believe that every woman’s success is both hard-earned and temporary. Or we can choose to believe that their success undermines our own.
We can choose to be the person that speaks of others with empathy and kindness, or we can choose to “vent” about why they are valueless until we feel better about ourselves.
Hands up if you have ever been the bully that made fun of someone for achieving their goals with Crossfit.
Heads up if you have ever made fun of someone for caring about a cause that you didn’t value.
Stand up if you have ever called another woman a slut, skank, bitch, whore, or the c-word, not because of something they deliberately did to you, but because of how you interpreted their actions.
I have. Bet you have too.
But this is the kind of negativity that keeps us all stuck.
When someone you know wants to start a business, try a new hobby, or go on a trip, what a wonderful world it would be if your first response was, “Wow! Tell me more about your plans!” instead of shutting them down or letting the green-eyed monster take over.
How To Light The Way: Becoming an ally
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